Vignette > Decoration Day

General John A. Logan

Mill Valley’s Memorial Day parade is a lot of fun, but today it barely honors war veterans. In 1868, General John A Logan, commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, designated May 30 as a day for decorating with flowers the graves of men who had fallen in the Civil War.  The holiday was called Decoration Day. In 1913, with so few civil war graves at the Presidio for San Franciscans to decorate, the Mill Valley Record reported, “Three to four thousand people spent Decoration Day in Mill Valley.  They started coming Thursday afternoon and by 10 o’clock that night there were upwards of one thousand hiking for Muir Woods and favorite camping spots near here.”  Gradually Decoration Day came to be known as Memorial Day. During World War I, the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars, although the graves of relatives and friends not necessarily war victims were also often decorated on May 30. In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees.